#electric #carsbut #Hummer

For electric cars, bigger is not necessarily better. In fact, it can be decidedly worse.

Such is the case with the Hummer EV, the new and electrified reincarnation of the vehicle that brought a military aesthetic to American roadways 30 years ago. The revamped Hummer no longer emits tailpipe emissions, but it’s still an environmental and societal disaster—and a warning about how car electrification could go off the rails if regulators give Detroit a free hand.

For the unfamiliar, the original Hummer was inspired by the U.S. military’s High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, popularly known as the Humvee, which was deployed in the 1989 invasion of Panama and the 1990-’91 Gulf War. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a fan of the Humvee, and he personally lobbied its manufacturer to create a version for public use.

The first civilian Hummer, the H1, arrived in 1992, and General Motors acquired rights to the brand a few years later. The final gas-powered model, the H3, weighed a little under 5,000 pounds and received the EPA’s lowest possible greenhouse gas rating for its 14 miles per gallon. It ceased production in 2010.

But now the Hummer is back, with a starring role in GM’s new embrace of electrification. Even compared to the already hefty H3, the new Hummer EV is mind-bogglingly massive: It’s roughly 2½ feet longer, 6 inches taller, and a couple inches wider than its gas-guzzling predecessor. The Hummer EV tips the scales at just over 9,000 pounds—that’s some 4,000 more than the H3, and equivalent to around three Toyota Corollas.

Those eye-popping specs portend danger for Americans who walk, bike, or travel in normal-size cars, since the added weight will apply extra force in a collision. Worse, the high front end of the Hummer EV makes it more likely to strike a person’s torso instead of their legs, increasing the risk of serious injury or death.

But at least the Hummer EV is electric, so it will help fight climate change, right? Well, don’t count on it.

Moving a vehicle weighing 4 ½ tons requires a tremendous amount of power, which calls for a very big battery. The one inside the Hummer EV weighs nearly 3,000 pounds, as much as an entire Honda Civic. Charging that battery requires lots of electricity, which itself creates emissions. In fact, the Hummer EV’s battery consumes so much power that the vehicle generates more carbon per mile than a gas-powered Chevy Malibu. You read that right: A gas-powered car is better for the planet than the Hummer EV.

And that’s not the Hummer EV’s only environmental downside. Its enormous battery contains large amounts of critical ingredients like lithium that are in short supply. Scarcity of such material is already raising the price of batteries, presenting an obstacle to electrifying transportation. That being the case, why allocate so much of the stuff to a Hummer EV battery that’s equivalent to three Chevy Bolt batteries—or 380 Rad Power e-bike batteries?

Beyond the Hummer EV’s dubious impact on climate change, its immense weight also generates more particulate emissions from tire friction, which causes health problems when inhaled. And it produces more road damage, since heavier vehicles inflict much greater wear and tear on pavement. Indeed, it’s hard to find any societal benefits from the Hummer EV, electric though it is.

Yet, that doesn’t mean people don’t want it. GM is just beginning to manufacture the new Hummer, but the company has already found plenty of people willing to pay its $110,000 sticker price. As of July, customers had placed over 77,000 orders, but only a few hundred Hummers had been produced. Demand has so exceeded supply that one vehicle recently sold at auction for $324,500.

The Biden administration has made the questionable decision to help stoke consumer interest. President Biden himself took a spin in a Hummer EV last year (spurring an increase in vehicle orders, according to GM); and in June, the U.S. Department of Transportation featured the Hummer EV at an electrification showcase held outside its D.C. headquarters. That high-profile placement was a curious one, since Secretary Pete Buttigieg has repeatedly sounded the alarm about the surging number of U.S. traffic deaths, which are already at a 20-year high. In January, for example, Buttigieg called it “a crisis that’s urgent, unacceptable—and preventable.” Adoption of the Hummer EV will hardly make that crisis any easier to manage.

The administration’s free marketing for the Hummer EV reflects a troubling pattern among Democratic officials in Washington, whose enthusiasm for electrification seems to override any concerns about the toll that gigantic EVs impose on society and the planet. It’s not just the Hummer EV; other oversize electric cars include the Rivian R1T (8,532 pounds) and Chevy Silverado (estimated to be about 8,000 pounds). There’s a reason carmakers opt to build such behemoths: they command high prices, which generate fat profits.

Since smaller EVs are better for the planet as well as society, an enlightened government would utilize regulations and tax policy to manage vehicle size and nudge the industry toward smaller models. But nothing of the sort is happening. On the contrary, the newly passed federal climate bill allows Americans to claim a $7,500 EV credit for buying an electric SUV or truck up to $80,000, but the ceiling drops to $55,000 for a sedan. Another example: the Department of Transportation still doesn’t consider risk to pedestrians or cyclists when calculating its influential crash-test ratings, known as the New Car Assessment Program. If it did, many oversize SUVs and trucks would fare poorly.

The good news is that even if the feds keep refusing to address truck bloat, states and cities can take action themselves. The District of Columbia, for instance, recently adopted a weight-based sliding scale for vehicle registration fees, with owners of cars over 6,000 pounds charged $500 per year, seven times more than those registering sedans. Notably, the District allots a 1,000-pound “credit” for EVs, acknowledging batteries’ weight while still incentivizing smaller car models.

Automakers were not pleased by D.C.’s move, which is the first of its kind in the U.S. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade group, sent city officials a letter arguing that weight-based fees endanger electrification. That claim is specious; D.C.’s policy targets only the very heaviest SUVs and trucks. Customers thinking about going electric have many reasonably sized EVs to choose from; the Volkswagen ID3, Nissan Leaf, and Tesla Model 3 are among those weighing less than half as much as a Hummer EV.

Indeed, there is no reason for the transition to EVs to involve adding so much vehicle heft that the U.S. creates an unnecessary tradeoff between electrification and road safety while making batteries even more expensive than they already are. The Hummer EV is a monstrosity that need not exist. Indeed, it shouldn’t.

David Zipper is a Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government. He writes frequently about the interplay between transportation, technology, and policy.



ahmedaljanahy Creative Designer @al.janahy Founder of @inkhost I hope to stay passionate in what I doing

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